By: Sarah Schoensee, guest blogger
It started as a sendoff to the 2023 Birds of Paragon – Lauren Ramage (pilot/captain) and Paragon Flight students Jen Adams (co-pilot) and Gina Willaford (team member) – as they prepared to participate in the all-female Air Race Classic (ARC) from June 20 to June 23. But we couldn’t stop there! Ultimately, we hosted nearly 200 people at Paragon Flight on Saturday, June 10, while saluting women in aviation and providing education on the variety of aviation careers available for women. There were so many highlights of the day:
- A great build-up of enthusiasm for the Birds of Paragon team, with live coverage from WINK news featuring not only Lauren, Gina and Jen, but also two of last year’s Birds of Paragon, Connie Hite and Cassie Thompson-Pride. Paragon Flight’s Chief Flight Instructor Jeff Wolf also got some air time! You can see the interviews here.
- Introduced 40 girls and young women to the thrill of the skies through complimentary discovery flights.
- Six remarkable women panelists who each bring unique experiences to the women in aviation story. We thank them all for their commitment to their craft!
- Rebecca Anderson; Airframe and powerplant mechanic
- Lt. Hayley Betker; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) King Air Pilot
- Laura Benson-Jones; Pilot, Board Chair and Founder, Flight Club 502 in Louisville, Kentucky
- Diane Meyers; Captain, Zero-G (first woman captain for a Turkish Airlines in 1995; professional pilot since 1982; airline pilot for 30 years and captain for 24 years)
- Niloofar Rahmani; Pilot; first female fixed-wing pilot of the Afghan Air Force
- Carly Shukiar; Piper Aircraft Fleet Sales Manager, US East; Tik Tok influencer
- Grace Wilson; Aviation Recruiter, Piedmont Airlines
Perhaps most importantly, we gathered as a tight-knit aviation community, committed to advancing the industry, creating opportunities for all and celebrating the hard-working, motivated individuals who have made their mark in aviation – or are getting ready to do so.
The Paragon Flight staff really hit it out of the park in organizing the event (so many details!) and serving as ambassadors on event day to ensure that all of our guests felt welcomed. To the Paragon Flight instructors who flew the discovery flights – your impact was immeasurable.
This event was possible due to our generous sponsors, notably presenting sponsor Piedmont Airlines – also supporting the 2023 Birds of Paragon – and Piper Aircraft. There were so many other local sponsors to thank, too. They are Florida International Airshow, Flight Ninja, Lycoming, Flight Club 502, CapAir, Page Field Base Operations, STS Properties, Anytime Fitness, 5 Day Plantation Shutters, Power Stroke Performance, My Shower Door, Gulf Coast Smiles, Viruet Periodontics, Restore Medical Partners, PRMG Dream Home Lending Team, Sweet Dreams Anesthesia, First Service, and Fort Rock. Thanks also to John Paluzzi for his fabulous photography!
Sarah Schoensee is a co-owner of Paragon Flight Training and serves as Administrative Director.